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Call the FCC? - Update:

It appears that some viewers were upset with a Fox cameraman's focus on a particular t-shirt during the Philadelphia Eagles-New Orleans Saints game last week -- and not because they were Eagles fans. The American Family Association is asking its members to file complaints with the FCC. Stay tuned.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Call the FCC? - Update:
  2. Call the FCC?
Mahlon:
I saw it at the time and thought, boy, the cameraman is going catch crap about that. He focused in on a very attractive female Saints fan and didn't read the shirt. IT wasn't on the screen very long, just long enough for me to change my focus from her to her shirt. Then again, I guess my eyes were drawn to her chest.
1.17.2007 10:24am
CJColucci:
Is there some place I can complain if I don't think there's enough smut on TV?
1.17.2007 10:28am
Old 33:
From the AFA site:
There can be no doubt that this was an intentional airing of patently offensive language on the public airwaves, as the person wearing the profane t-shirt was culled by Fox Network's broadcast crew from more than 70,000 spectators in the stadium. The camera operator selected that particular woman and the director and/or producers of the event made an affirmative and conscious decision to air the shot from that particular camera, forcing the f-word into millions of homes.

Really? There can be "no doubt" that Fox intentionally tried to bring fines upon itself?

Who makes this crap up, anyway?
1.17.2007 10:31am
WHOI Jacket:
Press releases. Sound as solid and indignant as you possibly can. Haivng been in college games where the audio probably would have had to been filtered or muted to get on the air at all, I'm pretty much yawing on this one.

I don't think the FCC will do much.
1.17.2007 10:44am
Colin (mail):
Who makes this crap up, anyway?

The AFA. They don't seem inclined to let reason stand in the way of their hysterical outrage.
1.17.2007 10:44am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

Is there some place I can complain if I don't think there's enough smut on TV?


Yes
1.17.2007 10:46am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
I saw it at the time and thought, boy, the cameraman is going catch crap about that. He focused in on a very attractive female Saints fan and didn't read the shirt. IT wasn't on the screen very long, just long enough for me to change my focus from her to her shirt. Then again, I guess my eyes were drawn to her chest.


I dunno, she seemed kind of skanky-looking to me.
1.17.2007 10:50am
John T (mail):
The FCC's mandate is such that they mostly respond to viewer complaints. As noted, they don't really have a way for people to indicate the they're perfectly okay with things, or that there's not enough smut. Various groups like the AFA started massive "click to send a letter to the FCC" a couple years back, which the FCC interpreted as a large increase in the number of complaints, even though it's almost entirely a result of these campaigns.

Of course, all the ironic posts on blogs of "why isn't this fined?" only makes fines more likely. The FCC only issues fines in response to complaints, and publicity of any sort makes complaints somewhat more likely.
1.17.2007 11:14am
Fub:
WHOI Jacket wrote:
I don't think the FCC will do much.
If penny ante bar bets on the internet weren't a federal felony in the "Land of the Free", I'd bet $5 that an NAL will issue.
1.17.2007 11:25am
Houston Lawyer:
I remember at rock concerts before the show the camera would scan the crowd for pretty girls. Some of them would remove their tops to the general amusement of the crowd. Somewhere along the line, the cameramen were compelled to stop showing this. Can't allow adults to have fun can we.
1.17.2007 11:25am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Various groups like the AFA started massive "click to send a letter to the FCC" a couple years back, which the FCC interpreted as a large increase in the number of complaints, even though it's almost entirely a result of these campaigns.


While I tend to think these complaints are silly and a distraction from important issues (which the proponents probably see as a feature rather than a bug), I'm not sure that the FCC is unreasonable in seeing this as an increase in the number of complaints. If more people are sending complaints via email even if it is as a result of an orchestrated complaint and it takes less effort to send the letter, then it really is more complaints because presumably they really are upset over whatever it is they're complaining about. The problem I think some people have is giving a complaint from a "form letter campaign" the same weight as someone who actually took the time to compose their thoughts.

What I think would be interesting is if when the FCC starts to receive a massive surge of complaints they segregate the ones which are obviously form letters and break it down in their statistics. Something like "last month we received 1400 complaints, 1350 of which consisted of identical email form letters written about the exact same thing."

Does anyone know if the complaints the FCC received are available online? It might be interesting to see what the breakdown really is.
1.17.2007 11:30am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Wow, Thorley... I agree. After the comments I've read, that was quite a let-down.
1.17.2007 11:30am
A DC resident (mail):
Why make the distinction between form and non-form letters? For someone like myself, who is busy with work, school, and a family, I want to complain but am quite busy. I don't have the leisure of a law professor who can blog about inane stuff.

My complaint, whether form or non-form, should count just the same. The AFA and other organizations are providing a useful service, enabling families who otherwise wouldn't have the time or means to file a a complaint with the FCC.

Have you ever considered that the average mother or father (who wants to raise decent children) might not even know where to begin to complain about stuff like this?
1.17.2007 11:44am
18 USC 1030 (mail):
If it was so patently offensive why did the AFA put it on their website? Surely such horrible images should not be seen. Why, then would the AFA subject their members so such vulgarity? If somehow NBC managed to get child porn on the air, would the AFA put that picture up to?
1.17.2007 11:45am
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
Who makes this crap up, anyway?

It's the culture of public problems. The route to power is to make up a ``public problem'' and take ownership of it.

Today's rhetorical strategies are outlined by sociologist Joseph R. Gusfield (_Contested Meanings : The Culture of Alcohol Problems_ U Wisc 1996), and the list can be taken as a how-to primer or as an explanation of modern dysfunctional government.
1.17.2007 11:48am
uh clem (mail):
Offened by the antics of the crowd at football games? then don't wacth football games.

How hard is this?
1.17.2007 11:53am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Why make the distinction between form and non-form letters?


Because some people believe (and I tend to sympathize with this position) that because it is so easy to "click and send" someone else's letter rather than write your own, that they ought to be weighted differently as these orchestrated campaigns by a small minority of people may distort the impression the FCC has of what people are thinking. The FCC made a point of saying that it has received an increase in the number of complaints and has used that as a rationale for cracking down on what's being broadcast over the airwaves. If the increase in complaints is really because technology had made it easier to complain (and the complaints really just an orchestrated campaign by a small vocal minority) rather that a broader disapproval of content brought on by an increase in objectionable material, then that ought to be considered. Hence my suggestion that the FCC should still continue to accept complaints but should provide some way of breaking them down so that the public is better informed as to what kind of complaints they're getting and why.
1.17.2007 11:58am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I fear the FCC is going to hammer Fox. Read the FCC decision on Bono's use of the F-word at the Golden Globe Awards a couple of years ago. They didn't fine him only because their old precedents arguably didn't allow it, but they made clear they were putting broadcasters on notice that even a single use of the "F-word" can and will likely result in a fine.

In fairness to the cameraman, I again point out that at the beginning of the camera shot, the "f" is obscured. New Orleans is a city of t-shirts, and they run the gamut from the humorous to the suggestive to the outright vulgar. I'd be shocked to learn that nobody was selling shirts saying "pluck da Eagles". Once the "f" became clear, the camera cut away pretty quickly.

Fining Fox in this instance would be silly and a serious waste of government time and resources. If the FCC proceeds against Fox and its affiliates for this, I say F*** da FCC!
1.17.2007 12:07pm
Shake-N-Bake (www):
The pinnacle of fine journalism, Maxim Magazine, is looking for this woman for a photo shoot. Somehow I'm not surprised.

On Fark.com people in the comments noted that she's a singer in a band in New Orleans and hosts some sort of night at a bar or something. Numerous people said they knew her. There were also photos of her with a whole bunch of other people outside the stadium all wearing the same shirt (though not cut off like hers was), so it was bound to happen at some point that one of those shirts would get on the air.
1.17.2007 12:18pm
Fub:
Thorley Winston wrote:
Because some people believe (and I tend to sympathize with this position) that because it is so easy to "click and send" someone else's letter rather than write your own, that they ought to be weighted differently as these orchestrated campaigns by a small minority of people may distort the impression the FCC has of what people are thinking.
The FCC has plenty of experience with organized complaint campaigns for decades, including completely nonsensical complaints. They even say so themselves.
1.17.2007 12:37pm
liberty (mail) (www):
I like how the AFA describes it, tells you what it says, then links to a picture of her and says WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT just in case after reading all that you'll be shocked to see the word all spelled out and everything.
1.17.2007 12:52pm
A DC resident (mail):
Most of you miss AFA's point. It's one thing to expose oneself to the F word in order to file a complaint. It's another thing to sit with your family and have your child exposed to it.

Your comments generally illustrate the problem with liberal America - little to no regard for the family and what is best for children.
1.17.2007 12:58pm
Visitor Again:
Have you ever considered that the average mother or father (who wants to raise decent children) might not even know where to begin to complain about stuff like this?

I went to grade school in the Forties and Fifties. Even in that comparatively innocent time, I heard the dreaded f word every single day at school. It didn't harm me as far as I can tell. I know where and when I can say the f word. I rarely use it. What's the big deal? How on earth does this carry any impact on decency among children?

If you don't want your children to see or hear the word, I would suggest home schooling and no television and no friends. Keep them isolated from the rough and tumble world and see how they adjust when they eventually have to face it.
1.17.2007 1:03pm
solon (mail) (www):
What is a reasonable expectation while watching a football game on television, especially accounting for children and, in this case, for night game? How do we judge "taste?" Whose community standards will we use to judge if this is indecent.

I ask these questions since it seems that we should understand the message in terms of its context and use. It seems very unlikely that words and images are always "obscene" or "indecent" and even "obscene" and "indecent" words are necessary for their communicative forceā€”see Cohen v. California.

As for the context of this image: It would be more reasonable to assume that the camera man in question focused on the girl because of the length of her shirt and not the message of her shirt.

Further, the shot in question occurred during a football game. The game of football is very violent and features a variety of sexual images throughout the broadcast of the game and the commercials. It seems that, if anything, the cameraman and the producer pandered to their audience.

Rather than showing little regard for the family, the producers of the show were providing entertainment for their audience. If parents do not find this form of entertainment best for their children, maybe they should have the children read, watch another show, or, considering the time, have them go to bed.
1.17.2007 1:27pm
JerryM (mail):
I say F*** da FCC!

Have to second that. I had a recent project working with those guys. Simple minded idiots.
1.17.2007 1:35pm
Miggs:
Most of you miss AFA's point. It's one thing to expose oneself to the F word in order to file a complaint. It's another thing to sit with your family and have your child exposed to it.

Your comments generally illustrate the problem with liberal America - little to no regard for the family and what is best for children.

Allowing your children to watch a player writhing around on the ground in agonizing pain is ok, but seeing the word "fuck" is somehow going to emotionally scar your little shits?
1.17.2007 1:37pm
JB:
Anyone who brings up the "for the children" canard should have their tubes tied.

I'm sick of it. What kind of milquetoast weakling kids are we raising that can't stand to see breasts or hear curses, or god forbid fall and get a scrape?
1.17.2007 1:46pm
sk (mail):
"I heard the dreaded f word every single day at school. It didn't harm me as far as I can tell. I know where and when I can say the f word."

This about epitomizes the entire argument, doesn't it? People think the FCC is draconian and reactionary because they don't want television, which is easily accessible to children, to have the word 'fuck' are themselves unwilling to use it on a blog of adults in an academic setting. If using the word 'fuck' isn't a big deal, and is perfectly ok for kids to hear, why do you feel compelled to edit it out in your own writing, here, for adults, in an academic setting? You really believe the public airways should be less child friendly than this blog? You don't fucking think that the word 'fuck' coarsens and cheapens the environment? Fuck doesn't degrade the quality of the discussion? That exposing children to fuck isn't bad for them? What the fuck are you thinking?

Sk

Note: If the administrators of this blog want to censor out my words and chastize me for the above post, feel free. The post is self-evidently in poor taste, adds nothing to the conversation, and coarsens the environment. Even I am mature enough to see that. Unlike those other miserable fucks who somehow think 'everybody says it, so it doesn't matter you fucking religious prude.' Fucking idiots.

Sk
1.17.2007 1:47pm
AK - Cleveland (mail):
Funny: the AFA's website form works just as well to write in support of Fox, declare that the standards of my community were not violated, and ask the FCC to ignore the AFA

:)
1.17.2007 1:56pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"Funny: the AFA's website form works just as well to write in support of Fox, declare that the standards of my community were not violated, and ask the FCC to ignore the AFA"

Yes, I've done that more than a few times with the lefty forms that my lefty friends forward to me from lefty sites. Fun!
1.17.2007 2:04pm
sk (mail):
Funny hell-its fucking hilarious!!!!

Sk
1.17.2007 2:05pm
Fub:
Sk wrote:
Note: If the administrators of this blog want to censor out my words and chastize me for the above post, feel free. The post is self-evidently in poor taste, adds nothing to the conversation, and coarsens the environment. Even I am mature enough to see that. Unlike those other miserable fucks who somehow think 'everybody says it, so it doesn't matter you fucking religious prude.' Fucking idiots.
Actually it gives readers a poignant glimpse into the workings of the mind from which your words arose.
1.17.2007 2:06pm
sk (mail):
Oh, Fub. Satire is wasted on the young.

Sk
1.17.2007 2:17pm
ShelbyC:

Note: If the administrators of this blog want to censor out my words and chastize me for the above post, feel free. The post is self-evidently in poor taste, adds nothing to the conversation, and coarsens the environment. Even I am mature enough to see that. Unlike those other miserable fucks who somehow think 'everybody says it, so it doesn't matter you fucking religious prude.' Fucking idiots.




Can they fine you?
1.17.2007 2:24pm
sk (mail):
"Can they fine you?"

Haha. If that's the best you can do, I can see that I have won.

Sk
1.17.2007 2:29pm
Nate F (www):
My father swore around me literally going back as far as I can remember. Since about high school, my mom has too. I appear to have turned out alright. Just saying.
1.17.2007 2:34pm
Visitor Again:
Yeah, I used the f word instead of the full word. Self-censorship because it seems to me the people who own this site sometimes act a bit like the FCC. Professor Volokh has recently gone on and on about civility in our posts, much to the dismay of some, who find it laughable that you can advocate torture and shooting people on sight here but not use the f word or tell someone to go f themselves or engage in vitriol or ad hominem, even of the mildest sort. I've been banned once for what I view as ridiculous reasons and I'd rather not be banned again. So I admit to self-censorship here. But not because I believe my spelling out the word would harm anyone or anything. Only because some aholes think it would.
1.17.2007 2:41pm
sk (mail):
wow. You just called professor volokh an ahole. You're edgy.
1.17.2007 2:52pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I dunno, she seemed kind of skanky-looking to me.

You say that as though it were a bad thing.

It's the culture of public problems. The route to power is to make up a ``public problem'' and take ownership of it.

Today's rhetorical strategies are outlined by sociologist Joseph R. Gusfield (_Contested Meanings : The Culture of Alcohol Problems_ U Wisc 1996), and the list can be taken as a how-to primer or as an explanation of modern dysfunctional government.


See also Wilson, Meredith, "Ya got trouble", River City, 1957.

I want to know about the cheerleaders. Less than a tenth of the people who see the game are at the stadium, and during the course of the televised game there's a total of what, a minute of cheerleader shot? So except for a few calendars and posters, how does everybody know just how hot these cheerleaders are? (Disclaimer: I'm in Patriots territory.)
1.17.2007 2:57pm
JRL:
Of course, this all ignores the fact that you hear a dozen f-bombs in a football or basketball game from the field/court mikes.
1.17.2007 3:37pm
BobH (mail):
A DC Resident says: "Your comments generally illustrate the problem with liberal America - little to no regard for the family and what is best for children."

His comment generally illustrates the problem with socially-conservative America -- little or no regard for MY ideas about what constitues "regard for the family" (in particular, MY family) and what is best for MY children. I have no problem with my children seeing, hearing, or using the word "fuck" (though I've tried to teach them that there are times when it is probably inappropriate for them to use it -- specifically, to avoid hurting the tender feelings of folks like a DC Resident and HIS children), and I'm not sure why A DC Resident cares what my children see or hear. And you know what? Fuck him!
1.17.2007 5:00pm
markm (mail):
If a football game counts as "news", then wouldn't what showing what the fans are wearing also be news reporting?
1.17.2007 5:10pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Anyone who thinks the word "Fuck" is not part of our common American vernacular has no ears. It's mystifying that some folks don't want to acknowledge that.

Can someone present the serious case that seeing the word on a T-shirt has any detrimental effect on anyone?

Before anyone mentions the kids, how did the kids get along in all those many years when everyone lived under one roof (or in one bed in the cold) and privacy hadn't yet been invented?
1.17.2007 5:47pm
Sk (mail):
"Anyone who thinks the word "Fuck" is not part of our common American vernacular has no ears. It's mystifying that some folks don't want to acknowledge that."

Well, let's see.

"Of course, this all ignores the fact that you hear a dozen f-bombs in a football or basketball game from the field/court mikes." JRL doesn't think its appropriate-he uses 'f-bomb' to avoid it.

"I went to grade school in the Forties and Fifties. Even in that comparatively innocent time, I heard the dreaded f word every single day at school." Visitoragain doesn't think its appropriate-he avoids it with 'the dreaded f word'

"I say F*** da FCC!" PatHMV doesn't think its appropriate-he says 'F***'

Note that these are people who AGREE with you, and they are sensitive enough to censor their own speech in a blog AIMED AT ADULT, ACADEMIC DISCUSSIONS.

Are you really still pretending to not get it? Censoring our own speech here, because its inappropriate, while simultaneously arguing that censoring the exact same word in a public forum is unacceptable, is logically incompatible. This is absolutely impossible to not understand and not acknowledge. How are you pretending to do so?


Sk
1.17.2007 7:08pm
kc:
sk-

So, you don't understand the distinction between self-censorship and state regulation? You think all humans are incapable of making the same distinction, and the government should do it for us? We should depend on the government for our ethical distinctions? How is that conservative, or pro-family?
1.17.2007 8:16pm
Pol Mordreth (mail):
Sk,
IMO, the issue isn't whether the word is appropriate or inappropriate. It's whether it should be finable in this instance. To me there is a difference in the gratutitous use of vulgarity (see "the Sopranos") and a (possibly) inadvertant glimpse of a tee-shirt for about 3/4 of a second at full speed. Do I think that the wearer of the shirt had no taste? yup. Do I necessarily want my kids to be hearing / seeing representations of vulgarity so often thay they think it's a legitimate form of communication? No. Do I feel that this case should be actionable? no. I watched the game, and didn't see this occur. Don't know how i missed it, I would have fallen down laughing. I feel that the standard of when to levy fines should take into account more than just the ire of the incessant complainers. Accidents happen. If my kids had been watching it, and had seen it, we would have had another round of discussions about propriety in public, and self-respect. but I wouldn't like to see the stations fined for it.
1.17.2007 8:22pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Sk: Note that these are people who AGREE with you, and they are sensitive enough to censor their own speech in a blog AIMED AT ADULT, ACADEMIC DISCUSSIONS.

So, what's wrong with the word "Fuck?" What's wrong with it when used by adults in academic discussions? That's the word we are discussing, isn't it?
1.17.2007 10:31pm
Stating the Obvious:
The website's note, amusingly, is literally untrue. Here's what it says: "the camera focused directly on a woman wearing a t-shirt clearly inscribed with the words "F--k Da Eagles" (without the dashes)."

But the T-shirt did NOT say "Fk Da Eagles".

I see no reason to take seriously the concerns of people who can't even state their complaint correctly...
1.18.2007 2:24am
RJL (mail):
It is far easier for me to explain to my kids that there is a skanky blond in the audience with a dumb t-shirt than it is to explain erectile disfunction and four-hour erections.
1.18.2007 7:06am
Visitor Again:
wow. You just called professor volokh an ahole. You're edgy.

Well I don't actually know what Volokh's view on using the f word in public is. I don't know that he would kick me off this blog; I just fear he or others might kick me off. He's got people censoring themselves, perhaps censoring themselves beyond what is necessary. That's the problem with vague and formless rules limiting speech--free speech doesn't get the breathing space it needs to survive. There comes a point, of course, where participating in the comments no longer is worth the trouble.
1.18.2007 11:07am
CrosbyBird:
Censoring our own speech here, because its inappropriate, while simultaneously arguing that censoring the exact same word in a public forum is unacceptable, is logically incompatible.

As kc said, here's a substantial difference between using the censored version in favor of the uncensored version because you choose to, and because some government agency is forcing you to. Although that isn't what's happening here.

This isn't a public forum, much as we'd like to think so. We're directed by the management to refrain from profanity as a condition of commenting.

Nobody would have any objection if the NFL, as part of the terms of its licensing agreements with the networks, put forward rules prohibiting profanity during a broadcast. As a private entity, such restrictions are totally within their rights. The FCC, however, is another example of the government deciding a standard of morality for individuals, and imposing that standard onto others.

Even those of us who would like to be able to watch football games with our children and have made the understandable personal decision that profanity is not appropriate for their own child should recognize that the government should not be choosing for them what is and is not appropriate. Should the FCC have been a differently motivated organization that demanded a ban of "any religious symbols" even hardened atheists should be equally incensed.

It's not about this woman's shirt having such redeeming social value that we are robbed of art by its censorship. It's about what decisions are proper for us to release into the hands of a government agency.
1.18.2007 4:16pm
Visitor Again:
This isn't a public forum, much as we'd like to think so. We're directed by the management to refrain from profanity as a condition of commenting.

That those who run this blog are not engaged in state action, that they have the power to censor, does not mean the policies they adopt in that regard are beyond criticism. Volokh's vague "be civil" policy coupled with fairly rigorous enforcement--I've seen quite a few commenters suspended, often without announcement of reason (I wasn't even told I was kicked out; I found out when I could no longer post messages)--inhibits a good deal of speech. And to me that kind of broad and arbitrary censorship is objectionable whether it's accomplished by state action or not.

My judgment is that the real reason for some of the suspensions has been disagreement with what the commenter has said on the merits. I've seen a double standard followed, sometimes in the same thread; the leftist has been "disciplined" and the reactionary has been allowed to continue although both were "guilty" of the same violation of the civility standard. On one occasion, the leftist was merely responding in kind to a reactionary who had provoked him, yet it was the leftist who got kicked out. I called Volokh on it, and he responded with something like "I can't be expected to spend the time making sure the policy is evenly enforced."

The vast majority of the posters here are right wingers. I come here to find out what they are thinking (and in the process I sometimes learn things I didn't know). That has a value to me, but only so much value. I try to abide by the civility policy so I can keep participating. But should I ever get kicked out again, I won't bother coming back, even though I do much more commenting here than anyplace else on the web.
1.18.2007 5:52pm